Main Street, extension service may share courthouse space

With the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce moved to the Waterfall office-retail complex on Grady Avenue, there is an opportunity for another group to make use of the first floor of the county’s historic courthouse in downtown Fayetteville.

The Fayette County Development Authority, charged with retaining and recruiting business and industry to the area, already occupies the second floor and holds the lease for the entire facility.

At a workshop meeting Dec. 5, the Fayette County Commission asked staff to look into the possibility of allowing both Fayetteville’s Main Street program and the county extension office to somehow share the first floor space.

The proposal from Main Street Fayetteville was the only one willing to pay some amount of rent for the space. In addition to the extension office, other suggestions were to move the county’s historical society there or to make the first floor an arts center.

FCDA President and CEO Matt Forshee said the Main Street proposal meshes well with the authority’s work because their missions are similar. Main Street Director Brian Wismer noted that the arrangement would also bring Fayetteville’s Downtown Development Authority into the building, which will help collaboration even more.

The Main Street offices are currently located in the Fayetteville Depot, and Main Street has offered to help rent out the third floor gathering space at the courthouse much as they have rented out the Depot for special events.

Forshee said that part of the proposal would need to be explored further.

Part of the reasoning for moving the extension service to the courthouse would be to take advantage of the county’s vibrant Master Gardner program to help spruce up and maintain the courthouse grounds, which is the unofficial “garden” of downtown Fayetteville.

The historic courthouse, which burned in the 1970s due to arson, was eventually rebuilt but hasn’t housed any local courts for more than two decades now, as it is far too small. Despite that fact, the courthouse remains a focal point of the county, and specifically an anchor to a now-growing downtown life in Fayetteville. The courthouse is such a monument to local history that its visage is used on various logos promoting the city and county.